The Q&A Archives: Butternut Tree Seeds

Question: The answer I received earlier has generated more questions on the topic of planting butternut tree seeds. We don't have time to start the seeds in the sand and store them for two months in the fridge. That would put us into November, and the ground will likely be frozen by then. Besides, that doesn't seem like an ideal time to plant in Minnesota. Could we just plant the seeds right now straight into the ground and forget the part about starting them in sand and storing them for two months in the fridge, followed by planting them in milk cartons? If this is acceptable, should we remove the outer green layer first? Should the seeds be "nicked?"

Answer: Juglans cinerea (Butternut) fruits are generally collected from the ground in the fall or early winter after they have fallen naturally from the tree. Seeds enclosed in husks will germinate, but it's easier to remove the husks from the seeds as soon as they fall from the tree rather than after they've dried. Since your seeds are obviously from last year's crop and they are dry, you should nick the husk to allow for water penetration. You can plant your seeds outdoors now rather than treating the seeds to a spell in the fridge. Natural germination usually occurs in the spring following seed fall. So, you have a choice. You can break dormancy by refrigerating and then bringing out into household temperatures. Or, you can sow your seeds outdoors now and your winter changing to spring weather will bring the seeds out of dormancy. Either way, if the seeds are viable, they'll germinate for you. Good luck!

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